A one-of-a-kind motorboat: every time you grab the helm of a Riva Aquarama, you feel like you are the protagonist of a cult film.

Published on 18 Jan 2021
5 minutes
Share on facebook
Share on whatsapp
Share on email
Share on twitter
Share on telegram

Often referred to as the most beautiful motorboat in the world by the international press, celebrated as a true icon in the nautical world, the Aquarama has been the cutting edge of the Riva brand since the 1960s.

Spearhead of a centuries-old shipbuilding tradition and produced until 1996, its sculptural profiles, high-level finishes and sporting vocation then inspired the contemporary Riva Aquariva.

Riva Aquarama, 1972. (Credit to Getty Images)
Riva Aquarama, 1972 (Credit to Getty Images)

Carlo Riva’s dream comes true

The Aquarama owes its name to the success of the cinerama in the United States.

In 1952, engineer Carlo Riva travels to the U.S.A. for the first time, and in a short time he falls in love with the country, because it’s full of inspirations. Among the many innovations that capture his attention is the big cinema screen, very popular during those years. And here is the brilliant intuition: designing an open boat with the first enveloping windshield, which encircles it at 180 °. As a functional and distinctive detail.

In terms of construction methods, Carlo Riva also looks with admiration at the expertise of the Chris Craft’s shipyards in Florida, because they are at the forefront and, at the same time, have a great tradition of almost a century behind them. Like the Riva shipyards themselves.

I had my heart and mind in America. I have always had great respect for the American system“.

Come back to Italy, he begins a long discussion with his father Serafino. Scepticisms are not lacking. Under his leadership, the Riva company has put sportsmanship first, and there seems to be no room for greater attention to aesthetic refinement.

But, in the end, the stubbornness of the young Carlo prevails: between 1962 and 1963 the design phase ends and the production phase starts with a new motorboat that, without distorting the distinctive features of the Riva brand, marks a stylistic breakthrough in the field of boating.

I knelt in front of my father. I said «Look dad, you can break this bottle in my head, but remember that I will build boats the way I like them»“.

The success of the Aquarama

The iconic hull of the Riva Aquarama is unmistakable. Born from the pencil of designer Giorgio Barilani, over the years it has varied in length from 8.02 to 8.78 meters. Although deriving from the Riva Tritone, the first twin-engine aircraft produced in large numbers by the Sarnico shipyards, it’s characterized by evident improvements.

The stability, compared to the older brother, increases thanks to the more pronounced angle of the stern. The Honduras mahogany upholstery, expertly wet in resin and polished to enhance the veinings, also embellishes the dashboard. Moreover 2 separate seats replace the single seat, the anchor housing is located in the bow, the sunken sundeck and the practical swim ladder stand out at the stern.

Mass production, with the use of the most advanced technologies of the time, leaves an obsessive attention to detail intact. Always a trademark of the Riva company.

Riva Aquarama Lamborghini, 1968.
Riva Aquarama Lamborghini, 1968 (Credit to Autoblog)

The engine compartment of the Aquarama houses 2 General Motors engines, suitably adapted by Chris Craft, with power from 185 to 400 hp, and the rudder is a Chrysler steering wheel adapted. Unequivocal signs of Carlo Riva’s high regard for American know-how.

Later, going beyond all limits, the partnership with Ferruccio Lamborghini will create an absolute masterpiece: the Riva Aquarama Lamborghini.

The original model is soon followed by the Super Aquarama and Aquarama Lungo variants (in limited edition). In 1972 the Aquarama Special is released, featuring a functional platform for ascent from the sea and a slide stern. Since the 1980s, the world’s most exclusive beaches have been populated by the first fiberglass Aquaramas: the special series Monte Carlo Offshorer and St. Tropez.

Among the admirers and owners of Riva Aquarama there are many celebrities. In addition to the industrialists Ferruccio Lamborghini and Aristotle Onassis, also members of renowned royal families, as well as important exponents of the film world, such as Brigitte Bardot, Richard Burton, Anita Ekberg and Sophia Loren.

Brigitte Bardot aboard the the Riva Aquarama in St. Tropez, 1962
Brigitte Bardot aboard the Riva Aquarama in St. Tropez, 1964 (Credit to Ghislan Dussart)

The Aquarama appears in internationally acclaimed films and commercials. It’s masterfully led by James Bond (aka Pierce Brosnan) in Golden Eye (1996) and by Vincent Cassel in Ocean’s Twelve (2004), and appears in the award-winning film The Great Beauty (2013). It hosts, among others, Charlize Theron in the 1993 Martini commercial and Jude Law in the 2011 Dior commercial.

The Aquarama is a miracle because, compared to the opponents of those times, it was beyond any comparison“.

Share on
Share on facebook
Share on whatsapp
Share on email
Share on twitter
Share on telegram

Article Content